Monday, December 18, 2006

Auteur Watch: Ralph Bakshi / Cable 4Ever: Fritz the Cat for Kids (or, yeah! More like Not-So-Cool World! Tee hee hee...)

You know, every so often there's what I'll call a Movie Nirvana feeling that sets in, like when you watch Goodfellas over and over and over again often enough, so often in fact that, eventually, you start to hate the movie and think of the Henry Hill character as as hollow of a shell as, say, Jimmy Fallon in Gangs of New York. Something like that. Or maybe it's that I realize I could've spent that time multi-tasking somehow, like clipping coupons, I don't know. Then, there's another phenomenon that I'll call Movie Erosion, where there's a movie they show on cable over and over that you know in your heart and gut is a bad movie, but eventually you see enough of it, and you start to think to yourself, "You know, this isn't all that bad!" That's how it happens. At least, I'm sure that's what Dan Aykroyd's hoping for Nothing but Trouble. He's given up hope on Neighbors, at least. And My Stepmother is an Alien.

This phenomenon just might work on some for the movie Cool World. Not quite for me, although some of the animated backgrounds are nice. Bakshi does anime, that kind of thing. It's still just a fourth-rate Roger Rabbit that only a trade journal could love. It's like if you have a really creepy uncle who says "Aw, that Roger Rabbit is nothin'. Come on down to the basement and I'll show you my collection of vintage post-Nuclear War comic books. It's just as good." It's like if Kevin Smith made Roger Rabbit, only less Catholic. The film is really completely obsessed with sex, even more so than Bakshi's adaptation of Lord of the Rings. It's as if in Roger Rabbit, Jessica Rabbit got it on with Eddie Valiant, that kind of thing. Coonskin or Heavy Traffic for kids, in other words. I'm surprised it's rated PG-13; it should be at least upgraded to R. They've given it a TV-14 for cable, whatever that means. It's also a sickly nod to the Looney Tunes camp: the film ends with a nod to the "That's All, Folks" ending. I'll bet Arthur Davis got a smile out of it; this film is something he might've come up with if given the chance. The film is populated with unfamiliar faces, which might've been an asset in another film, but not here. I did kinda like that paranoid phone, though.

Another problem: there was very little budgeting for shading on the animated characters. In Roger Rabbit, when there was a scene in the dark, the cartoon characters were dark, too. Here they're almost always bright. Also, some of the animation is rather blatantly recycled, something not done in Roger Rabbit. Or probably the Looney Tunes movie, for that matter.

I'm too weary to do a comprehensive analysis of what percentage of the movie is strictly practical shots around Las Vegas, and which are on the Bakshi motion-capture stages of old. There's a couple New Generation voice-over geniuses in the cast, Charlie Adler and Maurice LaMarche who will undoubtedly defend Bakshi to the end, so I can't beat up on him too much here. As for the three live action leads, Gabriel Byrne looks like he's in hell, Brad Pitt looked like he was just happy to be his own handsome-ass self, and Kim Basinger turns in a nice performance in what can only be described as a fun exercise for an actress; I'll bet Byrne was kicking himself a little bit for falling for Ellen Barkin first, but 'nuff said; that's too personal a dig even for me. John A. Alonzo, ASC is burning in hell for this one. Well, this and Deuces Wild.

But because of Basinger's gratitude in her Oscar speech from 1998, Bakshi is finally on the mend with the upcoming feature, The Last Days of Coney Island, and even though the plot sounds a little generic (the main live-action characters in Cool World are named, what else? Only Frank and Jack, only the most common first names in bad movies), he's sure to have an Ace or two up his sleeve in the script department, just like Cool World's Magic Spike, that Movie Enigma that holds the world together, or rather, keeps it from falling apart, although I must confess I would've rather seen that happen in this movie. Might've been more interesting. And I'm sure Bakshi's finally learned the Biggest Showbiz / Film-making No-No of them all: It's impolite to pass the audience through the alimentary canal of a giant cartoon gorilla.

* 1/2
So sayeth the Movie Review Hooligan

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